Failure to thrive is a term given to a baby or child that appears to be growing slower than most children of a comparative age. It may also apply to an infant or child that is losing weight rather than gaining.
Both doctors and health visitors use this terminology, it is determined by plotting the child's development on a growth chart. Parents may also spot failure to thrive by their own observations of their child.
Although it sounds worrying, failure to thrive is often easily addressed, and doctors and health visitors will work with parents to determine the cause. For example, it can often be the case that the child is simply not eating enough or often enough, or is experiencing problems with weaning.
Other causes can require some medical intervention, such as throat or mouth infections that prevent a child from eating well. A particularly nasty stomach bug can also results in failure to thrive; as can reflux (also known as heartburn) which can cause a child to resist eating due to the pain that is caused by the acid travelling up from the child's stomach.
Failure to thrive can normally be determined and treated with relative ease. However, it is important to understand the cause as it can also be a sign of a much more serious health condition although, in the vast majority of cases, this is unlikely.